October 12, 2009
3/18/1994--My Most Incredible Show!
As you can probably tell I have never written a "review" for anything in my life--excepting computer products.
That being said, I was (and AM) a "deadhead" to the core of my soul! This show, in particular, explains why.
As a Suburban Chicagoan, the Rosemont Horizon (now the "All-State Amphitheater--but of course) has housed many a great band and LOTS of memories. My first concert, Billy Joel (in 1980) was there (and AWESOME!) So was my first Dead experience, in 1987.
I got tix for the three-night Horizon run, 3/16-3/18. While all three where notable in some fashion, this one was "the ONE"--Jerry's voice and playing as fluid as ever, Billy and Mickey chugging along like 10,000 locomotives, Bobby non-annoying, Phil up LOUD in the mix dropping bombs, and Vince proving his worth as a post-Hornsby keyboardist. He's not Brent, but then who IS? He held his own.
I will not lie--this was when I was 24 and, for the last night, I imbibed in some fine local-brewed L. I'm glad I did, kinda, because this set the tone for the night.
I had good seats where I wanted them--just off floor in the rear of the arena so I would be placed for perfect stereo...although little did I know that the MeyerSound PA stuff being used then would "generate" perfect stereo just about anywhere you sat throughout the arena via very accurate FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) real-time sound analysis, active room-sampling and EQ, and many other tricks that Healy and Pearson had up their sleeves back then. They were about 20 years ahead of the "live-sound" curve then! Still, I was low enough to catch floor-coupled bass and great imaging and high enough to get a good view of the lights and not be in the way of the HF driver arrays.
"Stranger" rang out after the Boys took to the stage after a quick tune-up, Vince roaring along on B3. Wow, Bobby sure sounds good! I always like a good "Stranger!" Bobby sings with emotion and perfection; Jerry's wah-picking very fluid and on-key. Granted, I could deal without the MIDI guitar/cheezy 80's synth in the chorus, but hey... Vocal harmonies are all on, very good. I hear that Jer sounds awesome despite two hard shows before. I am excited! Bobby sings, "You know its gonna get stranger, so let's get on with the show!" and the crowd roars its approval. Stranger indeed! Jer's noodling in the Stranger jam is spot-on.
"Deal" starts, to my delight, with Jerry picking out the notes with precision. Vocals are SOOOO good! Vince in on some piano--very Hornsby-like, low in the mix. Jerry flubs the first three notes of his first-verse solo--the rest are precision itself, like pieces of sparkling stained-glass! Wow, I'm thinking, he must REALLY know this song!! WHOOPS, a vocal mistake where I thought the organ solo went! So they sing the first verse again and, well, what? Jer's trying to steer the band to the closing jam, Vince is feeling cheated out of his shining moment...hmm. A moment of confusion as Jerry looks over at Phil and shrugs, smiling. Still, Jer's fretboard runs in the close solo are SO good--and Vince is jamming chords along with him on his grand. He's making up for the lost B3 solo VERY well. Phil is shaking his way into my very soul. It is continuous JAM from 3:25 onto the 8:21 end, except for a reprise of the "Deal" chorus at about 7:40.
I start to feel some the anxiety of onrushing psychedelics. Oh man, what a mistake I think, this show is TOO GOOD for altered perception!!!
El Paso is next, and I dunno WHAT to think. I mean, I LIKE the song, but at the time am all sour on Bobby songs. When Bobby picks up an acoustic I get excited though. Vocals are really good, Jer's "highlights" perfectly placed and played, vocal harmonies are so sweet! OK, this version changed what I thought of El Paso! Sweet ending with Bobby strumming, Jerry running, and such. El Paso is a great song!
Starting to notice the floor and walls losing solidity, oh boy. Feeling that anxiety that's the precursor for a HEAVY psychedelic experience...my God, that was FAST! My hand cramps up--or does it? Oh, what a great El Paso Jerry solo! It's hard to notice though as the lights are starting to smear and every person is leaving trails in my vision... Maybe I had too much too fast? Little do I know it then, but I am experiencing my very first overwhelming panic attack, soon to be a fixture in my life.
"Brown-Eyed Women" is next...another song that I have only heard played to its potential on this night. The climaxes of the song build to the chorus, the choruses to the bridge! I can hear Jerry perfectly, his voice sounds acoustically STELLAR. They must have done something, or not, to Jer's vocal equipment...it's that sweet and smooth. TOTALLY not there for the previous two nights...at least it sure don't sound like it! Sounds like perfect vocals run through a Nuemann 87 and a valve amp...my God, the WARMTH is astounding!!! The band cranks this out like a perfectly-lubricated precision German-made 12-cylinder engine...everything meshes--harmonies, melodies, geometries, modalities, mini-solos, EVERYTHING! The band sure was NOT dusty, and the liquor was clear and potent.
The L has hit me full-on. I am starting to panic a bit more. I reach for the Thorazine in my hipsack. My friend there with me is like "NO!!!" I put it back.
Masterpiece sounds after some tuning. Bobby sounds SO good! Better than Dylan Himself?? Maybe? Vince is chording along, piano perfect, gotta change that cheesy synth sound! Jer nails the first solo.
A small dimensional tear appears before my vision, in which I fancy I can see the Central Galactic Suns, as Jerry nails the solo as only he can, bending and wringing out every human emotion from his six steel strings. The key change goes perfectly. I am starting to experience a strange sense of synthesia now--every player has their own COLOR!! Jerry is bright orange, Bobby yellow. Bob and Jer NAIL the harmonies at the end of the song to loud cheers.
NOW I am starting to seriously lose it. I regret ever taking ANY drug and pray to God, if He's indeed There, to make this stop. I am, for some reason, praying the next song is a Jer tune, so I can chill out a bit at least!
Thus begins "Ramble On Rose." Jerry plays the beginning perfectly with Vince playing honky-tonk piano.
As the first verse is sung, I experience the Dead as I never have experienced ANYTHING. The Dead as Grand Design. Everything in such perfect synchrony with everything else that it transcends music--hell, it transcends ALL EXPERIENCE!! And, no, its not the acid. LISTEN to it!!! It's sheer perfection and grace. The guitar solo is spot-on, with a lot of very welcome Jerry embellishments. Oh my God, just when you think it cannot POSSIBLY go on it does, Jerry reaching for the heights, his music soaring like a magnificent flight of eagles on a desert thermal. Never before has music done this to me! My soul feels the freedom of total boundlessness...I have seen MANY Dead shows before this and always thought I "got it..."--but I never did. Until now. Just re-listening gives me chills!!! Mickey and Billy are synched up like a gear on a chain. As I hear it now, the guitar solo sounds just as good as it did that night. It is very near note-perfect. BY FAR the best RoR I have heard before or since.
The catharsis comes when Jer sings the "Just like momma and poppa..." line. He sings it loudly, stridently, confidently. He KNOWS he's "on" tonight!! Sadly, I never hear him perform this well again. Perfect.
Mentally, that RoR got me REALLY excited, but maybe too much so. As "Music" starts I realize that I am in a bad place--my body looks like Michaelangelo as every muscle and tendon is standing out in sharp relief and PULLING at the same time. This is pain like I have not known! Jer's run at the beginning of TMNS makes me smile, but, oh God!! I think that I should get a paramedic, decide to self-administer 60mg of Valium instead along with a friend's berry wine cooler (and I NEVER drink!) My friends clearly SEE that there is something VERY wrong here, and try to talk me down a bit. Only hurting. So, although I remember TMNS as being a GREAT version and well-played that night, I am fighting for my life--at least so I think. I remember the 3/4 part (or is it 6/8) being very "purposeful" and beautiful as fractal patterns drift over the floor crowd from the gobos. Still, I never really connected with TMNS, and pray for a setbreak soon.
OK, 15 minutes into setbreak, but nowhere near OK. The Valium has loosened my muscles but I need this trip to STOP! Now! And it has not. Not by a long shot. I grab for my hipsack and plunge the Thorazine syringe into my leg and wince at the pain as I push the plunger down. 5 minutes later I feel very sleepy and my trip is DEFINITELY over.
I remember a very awesome "Sunshine" second-set opener but drift off during the second verse. I wake up in the back seat of a friend's van...at home...after the show.
Well, I guess that THIS is exactly why I am not a good reviewer!! Yes, what I did was stupid. Today I cannot even look back at that person as "me!"
Still, I had to share the pure and simple ALCHEMY of this show...it DID change my life and my attitude towards the Dead and live music in general. It sets the bar to which I judge all others--perhaps unfairly, but it did. I hope that you were able to groove on the vibe that I'm trying to send out about this show, and have had your OWN personal 3/18/1994! This show (at least the first set) has yet to be surpassed. Five stars with a cherry on top!! THIS is the reason SBDs exist.
October 12, 2009